Published Online: May 20, 2014
Published in Print: May 21, 2014, as Blogs

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| NEWS | Rules for Engagement

Researchers Find Being a Bully Could Have Health Benefits

Could being on the delivery end of bullying be good for you? Some researchers have found being a childhood bully seems to correlate with at least one isolated positive health indicator. And, conversely, being the target of bullying might have negative health effects.

Shhh ... Don’t share this study with the bullies in your school. We wouldn’t want name-calling to be a part of a student’s health regimen along with protein shakes and “Rocky”-style runs up and down flights of stairs.

Researchers at Duke University School of Medicine analyzed levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of low-grade inflammation, in randomly selected participants in the Great Smoky Mountains Study, which has gathered information from 1,420 North Carolina residents for two decades. Heightened levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP, could be an indicator of health problems, including metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and infections.

Studied subjects were between ages 9 and 16 at the time of the research. In interviews, they were identified as bullies, bullying victims, a combination of the two, or neither. Here’s the big finding from the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week:

“Although CRP levels rose for all groups as they entered adulthood, victims of childhood bullying had much higher CRP levels as adults than the other groups.” And the more often the bullying, the higher the levels. Bullies, meanwhile, had the lowest levels.

The good news: Other, more positive social states correlate with low levels of inflammatory markers, the researchers write. That feeling of power and heightened social status associated with bullying might also be achieved through self-confidence and a positive attitude.

–Evie Blad


| NEWS | District Dossier

Newark Voters’ Mayoral Choice Signals Shift for City Schools

In a rancorous mayoral campaign that often revolved around the future of public schooling in New Jersey’s biggest city, Newark voters last week overwhelmingly favored city councilor and former high school principal Ras Baraka over Shavar Jeffries, a civil rights lawyer who chaired the city’s school advisory committee.

Baraka, who won decisively with 54 percent of the vote, was heavily backed by labor unions, including the local teachers’ union and its parent, the American Federation of Teachers.

Jeffries, the founder of a high-performing charter school in Newark, drew strong support from a deep-pocketed array of education philanthropists who have been pushing for certain education reforms to be adopted in the city’s long-struggling public schools.

While the Newark mayor has no control over the school system—the district has long been run by the state of New Jersey—Baraka’s election no doubt will be viewed as a repudiation of former Mayor Cory Booker and his aggressive push to overhaul the schools through the expansion of charters and forcing rule changes to make it harder for ineffective teachers to keep their jobs. Booker left the mayor’s office several months ago after winning election to the U.S. Senate.

Although Jeffries has been critical of Newark’s state-appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson, Baraka’s election will also be viewed as a strong statement from voters on their disapproval of the schools chief and her controversial One Newark plan, which proposes a massive reorganization of the district through closures and mergers of existing schools and invitations to more charter schools to operate in regular public school buildings.

–Lesli A. Mawell


| NEWS | Charters and Choice

Civil Rights Guidance on Charter Schools

The U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights has issued guidance clarifying that charter schools have the same obligations to abide by federal civil rights laws as regular public schools. The “Dear Colleague” letter by Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon includes specific guidance for charter schools related to admissions, students with disabilities, English-language learners, and discipline.

In addition, Ms. Lhamon wrote, charter schools should ensure their policies and practices comply with all federal civil rights law, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination based on disability.

“These laws extend to all operations of a charter school, including recruiting, admissions, academics, educational services and testing, school climate (including prevention of harassment), disciplinary measures (including suspensions and expulsions), athletics and other nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, and accessible buildings and technology,” the May 14 letter says.

When it comes to admissions, for example, charter schools cannot discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, or disability status, Ms. Lhamon wrote. Because charter schools have choice-based admissions, leaders may need to make special considerations, the guidance says. That may mean printing materials so that parents of language-minority students can understand them, or providing interpreters or translating services.

And in the area of discipline, the guidance echoes more general federal guidance issued in January that called on schools to step back from zero-tolerance policies and to ensure that their policies and practices don’t have a “disparate impact” on students who have disabilities or are members of certain racial or ethnic groups.

–Evie Blad


| NEWS | Politics K-12

New $75 Million Federal Grant Program Aimed at College Access, Affordability

A new, $75 million federal grant program is intended to help institutions of higher education that want to try new strategies for improving access, affordability, and achievement.

The goal of the “First in the World” program, according to a May 15 announcement from the U.S. Department of Education, is to “catalyze the work of institutions of higher education that are demonstrating how to develop and evaluate new approaches that can expand college access and improve student learning while reducing costs.” The program is also crafted specifically to help “underrepresented, underprepared, or low-income students.”

Colleges and universities will be able to use the grant money to improve transfer rates between community colleges and four-year institutions; close achievement gaps between underrepresented, underprepared, and low-income students and their peers; and increase the enrollment and participation rates of those targeted students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or stem, fields. Of the $75 million available, $20 million will be set aside for colleges and universities that are designated as minority-serving institutions, the department said.

–Andrew Ujifusa

Vol. 33, Issue 32, Pages 8,21

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